The State Department has recalled the U.S. ambassadors to three countries who recently cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan under pressure from China, State Department Press Secretary Heather Nauert announced Friday.
“The Department of State has called back the U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Robin Bernstein; the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Jean Manes; and the U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Panama, Roxanne Cabral, for consultations related to recent decisions to no longer recognize Taiwan,” Nauert announced in a statement.
“Our three Chiefs of Mission will meet with U.S. Government leaders to discuss ways in which the United States can support strong, independent, democratic institutions and economies throughout Central America and the Caribbean,” she said.
The move was a clear sign of support from the U.S. for Taiwan, which has been facing increasing diplomatic isolation under a campaign by China since the pro-independence party took over the Taiwanese government in 2016.
Last year, China persuaded Panama to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of ties with Beijing. This year, it persuaded the Dominican Republic to cut ties with Taiwan. And last month, it persuaded El Salvador to cut ties, whittling down Taiwan’s formal diplomatic allies to 17.
China also demanded that the United Nations World Health Organization block representatives from Taiwan from going to its last World Health Assembly in May.
China has also pressured international and American businesses that want to operate in China on how to describe Taiwan in their promotional materials.
This year, China demanded that airlines operating in China, including four American airlines, change the way its describes Taiwan — as a part of China and not a separate country — on its website.
It also demanded that Gap cancel a T-shirt that featured a map of China — but did not include Taiwan or Tibet. The retail company apologized to China and pulled the T-shirt form its stores.
To persuade countries from cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan, China has dangled the prospect of increased trade, investment, and tourism. Some China experts have called Chinese loans “debt trap diplomacy,” where small and poor nations accept millions in loans for infrastructure projects but cannot repay them, allowing Beijing swoop in and seize the infrastructure for its own use.
China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province, but Taiwan considers itself a separate country. Its government was established in 1949, after Chinese nationalists fled to the island after a civil war with Chinese communists.
The U.S. acknowledges China’s position, but maintains robust informal diplomatic ties under the Taiwan Relations Act, and provides Taiwan with defense equipment.
China’s current government has stated its intention to reunite Taiwan with China by 2049, and has not ruled out using force. In recent months, China has stepped up its military exercises around Taiwan, sailing an aircraft carrier by the island earlier this year in a show of force. The U.S. Navy later sent two destroyers through the Taiwan Strait, publicly acknowledging such an operation for the first time since 2007, as reported exclusively by Breitbart News.